“A myth is something that in some sense happened once,
but which also happens all the time.”
– Karen Armstrong
In second grade in Catholic school
the lesson was Adam and Eve and Eden,
the snake, and the fruit of the tree with the odd name,
the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
I tried to parse it out.
It wasn't eating the fruit of the Tree of Evil,
it wasn't an evil apple
like the witch gave Snow White.
of the tree
of the knowledge
of good and evil.
That was weird.
That was not simple,
like “Come home when it gets dark.”
like “Look out for snakes.”
It was knowing that you know,
seeing that you know
the way you know you are part of a class in a classroom.
The way you know you are a girl.
This was the way I suddenly got
that I was a whole
and no one could see inside my head.
I colored in the worksheet.
I watched my fingers color.
Everything was different now
and I was alone there at the shared table.
Fluttery rapid thing,
beating your wings too hard too fast
yearning up to the open out-there,
or darting here, or here, or over there,
a dance all about like panic,
no nest, sheer nerve –
oh you small scared swirl of energy,
I would tame you, I would smooth you,
not to possess but to compose,
not to control but to home-in, to rest,
here my arm out, my finger extended,
a perch, a moment in which to just live,
just a moment, a moment –
to take a look around in all directions
without flying off in any one.
To accept the short movement
that sets you inside the birdcage
in my chest, a Kahlo painting,
a missing bird-shaped gap, fitted,
your flutter a little mechanism now,
as the apparatus of us moves together,
as now, soothed and sorted,
you try a few, just a few,
chirrups of song.
Ash tree turned, burgeoning autumn
in the open space where we walk,
briskly, to assuage your grief,
your immovable grief –
well, to move, anyway.
Grief like that is unsoothable
and it makes us move the way
a woman in labor must move,
as the terrible process moves through her;
is moving, my friend, my friend, through you.
Yet in this compulsion we stop, abruptly,
entirely brought up short. Ash tree turned,
burgeoning autumn. Purest yellow.
The color red has scarlet, the color green emerald,
but there is no word adequate for this yellow.
Gold does not do. School bus?
Traffic stripe? A different dictionary.
Driven as we are we are caught full stop
if it were a traffic light.
So saturated, light incarnate. So alive, singing.
Next week, or tomorrow, it will be gone.
Utterly gone, bare fingers upturned.
How can this be, something so here,
so present, it interrupts
devastation itself for a moment.
Ash tree turned, burgeoning autumn.
The only response to beauty
The only response to grief is praise.
Maria Berardi’s work has appeared in local and national magazines and online, including Luna Luna, Leaping Clear, DASH, Panoply, Wild Roof, The Colorado Sun, The Moving Force, and forthcoming in Jelly Bucket, Braided Way, and Good Works Review; the annual anthologies from 8th st. publishing guild and New Feathers, and next year's Texas Poetry Calendar by Kallisto Gaia Press, as well as at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, in Arvada, CO, in collaboration with installation artist Bonnie Ferrill Roman. Her first collection, Cassandra Gifts, was published in 2013 by Turkey Buzzard Press, and she is finishing her second, Pagan. She lives in the Front Range foothills west of Denver at precisely 8,888 feet above sea level. She says her process “is one of listening for transmissions from the cosmic radio and trying to catch them on paper before they dissipate: the glimpse, the complicated knowledge.